Photo by: Chris Jerina
The hockey season in Nashville is only a wisp away from either starting on January 15th or 19th. With that in mind, the Predators along with every NHL team will have to go through a blindingly fast training camp to A: get everybody back home from overseas play and AHL call-ups and B: get everyone on the same page through line chemistry, playbook saturation and overall fundamentals and game plan strategy.
In the shortened season, there are no “gimme” games. It is all-or-nothing for the next five months where every point is valuable and the competition will be fierce for the top eight spots (unless some tinkering happens with the playoffs). Here is what I am hoping to see come the start of the season and this should bring about a very balanced team with true grit and a hard-hat mentality that defines Predators hockey.
Pekka Rinne – The obvious #1 choice and a superb back-stop for the Predators. Many are worried about his health and his performance overseas but rest assured that Rinne is one of the elite and will serve the Predators well this year as always.
Chris Mason – In his third stint with the Predators (a franchise first), Mason is a great back-up goaltender with proven experience and he is a stone-wall when he is on his game. With only 48-50 games, look for Mason to see maybe 6-9 starts to alleviate the inevitable back-to-back games.
Weber and Josi will work well together after some time in training camp. The immediate threat is the lack of chemistry for them but after watching Josi last season, his game closely resembles that of Ryan Suter. Klein and Hannan will be a very effective shutdown 2nd line D pair and Hannan can also be used on the PP opposite Blum or Ellis. Gill is a beast and his defensive prowess coupled with the younger, more offensive-minded Blum or Ellis will help them in their development. Solid defensive lines all around will be key to the Predators success this season.
The top line for the Predators stays the same since the training camp will be so hurried and everybody will be trying hard to integrate new talent. The second line needs a boost and having proven shooters with Hornqvist and Wilson on a line with Legwand will help tremendously in mismatches for opponents. The third line is the secret weapon for Nashville. Gaustad will start to play even better with the likes of young hungry wingers in Smith and Halischuk. Keep in mind Halischuk quietly tallied 15 goals last season from the fourth line.
With Bourque on the shelf, likely Yip will get the start on the fourth line instead of Beck, but if I had my druthers Taylor Beck would be on the line with Mueller centering and Spaling on the left wing. McGrattan will of course be used in the “patroling” category and that position will be almost non-existent with a 48-50 game season so look for the perma-scratch for Big Ern.
Barring injury, this should be the opening night roster for the Predators. I would very much like to see Kevin Henderson at some point as he is lighting it up in Milwaukee with key plays and a nose for the net, but that would involve further injuries which would be the kiss-of-death in the lockout shortened season.
What say you Predator fans? How would you rate our overall roster? Any changes? Post your roster or comment below and be sure to follow us on Twitter @ThePredatorial and @Preducated for all your Nashville Predators hockey commentary, analysis and previews.